As Jensen's Icarus system landed him safely on the deck of the giant Arctic installation, he heard the familiar comm indicator.
"Jensen? Jensen can you read me?" asked Pritchard, having just seen his GPL signal light up over Panchaea.
"Barely. I've reached Panchaea, Freya. Any word from Sarif or the UN delegates?" he asked, trying to get some kind of assessment of the situation. There was no telling what he would encounter in there.
"Nothing. It looks like the installation went into lockdown shortly after Darrow gave his speech, so I can't get any readings. I can't even tell if anyone's alive down there. And the signal is still broadcasting."
"Meaning no one's safe 'til I get in there and shut it down"
"You'll have to disengage the lockdown first. Look for a master control panel at the top of the tower. The schematics show a short cut through one of the middle vents in a concrete cylinder outside."
"Thanks. Stay on the line, I don't know what I'm coming up against yet."
Freya caught a brief glimpse of the deck. Whirls of snow flurries blowing past isolated fires and heavy machinery, before the video cut out. She was still sitting under her desk, which she had pressed close up to glass doors of the Tech Lab. They normally opened automatically but she had activated the emergency lock. She leaned her back up against the inside face of the back of the desk Every so often she would freeze as awkward, languid footsteps sounded outside the door. Occasionally she heard a loud banging on the glass, but they usually stopped after the first two or three pounds.
Within a short amount of time, she heard Jensen call her.
"Okay, Freya, I'm just outside the main room where Darrow gave his speech. The lockdown controller should be in here."
"Have you seen any affected augs?" she asked nervously.
"Not that many, something must have drawn most of them off…"
She watched as he jumped through a broken window into the room where Darrow gave his short opening speech before activating the signal. As Jensen's view panned around the room, it finally came to rest on the elderly Nobel laureate. Hugh Darrow was seated in front of his podium, his silver walking stick, now bloodstained, resting across his lap as usual. Despite its primary function as a mobility aid, it came to a sharp point on one end and had clearly been expertly used against the some raging augs. Under his feet there was a pool of blood gathering from several of the bodies nearby. Jensen turned toward the lockdown switch, a red square button on the dashboard to the left.
"I don't think you want to do that, Mr Jensen," warned Darrow . "Disengage lockdown, and whatever demons this station contains are likely to come crashing out on us."
"Afraid to die, Darrow? Or just unwilling to face what you've done?" accused Jensen.
"Oh, I know what I've done, believe me, I take no pleasure in it," said Darrow solemnly. He had the demeanor of a martyr, as if he were taking this sinful path to cleanse humanity.
"And yet you still did it."
"I did what had to be done. Twenty years ago I gave the world augmentation technology. I thought I was giving it a bright future but instead I gave it the means to destroy itself. No law, no UN regulation was going to fix that."
"People are dying out there, hundreds of thousands of people, driven to the brink of insanity because of you."
"I had to convince the world. Before today people believed we should steal fire from the gods and redesign human nature. But human nature is the only thing we have that gives us a moral compass, and the social skills we need to live in peace. Destroy it and you destroy our very species."
"Don't paint yourself a savior in this. What you're doing is insane."
"Is it? When this is done, the Illuminati won't be able to control men and women like you, as they had planned – from the inside out. No one will be able to use the technology I invented to make others into beings they desire. Something we both know has happened already."
Jensen stifled the anger that flared up when he reminded Jensen how he had been used by his boss, by Megan. "You think you're Frankenstein, killing his own monster."
"Actually Mr. Jensen, I prefer to think of myself as Daedalus, watching helplessly as his child crashes into the sea," Darrow said, staring out thoughtfully over the icy Arctic ocean.
"I'm ending this, now."
"You can't. The signal is being generated from the broadcast center at the base of this facility. Panchaea's security system has been programmed to protect it and will kill you before you even get close."
"You designed that system, Darrow. You can tell me how to shut it down," Jensen reasoned.
"But I won't. You think what I'm doing is extreme, but you simply don't understand. For humanity to survive beyond this century it must abandon ill-conceived notions about transcendence and embrace change. But for that to happen the hard lesson must be learned. Blood must be shed," said Darrow resolutely.
"Maybe you're right, maybe you're wrong. None of it matters because this is what will happen now. After today whatever you say will be dismissed as the ravings of a mass murderer, you were one of the greatest minds of our time and tomorrow you'll be nothing but a killer."
"I have shown the world the worst of itself, Mr. Jensen," he proclaimed stoically. "As long as people understand that, what they say of me doesn't matter. History shows us that every measured reasonable approach to a global problem has failed, mired in apathy and inaction. Taggart would have us sit and debate while people like you continue to radically and fundamentally tear at the fabric of society. You'll never freely give up your augmentations and your lust for superiority will destroy us all."
All this hatred for augmented people. Jensen glanced down at the obvious metal brace on Darrow's right leg. "You know I've always wondered about that leg brace of yours. Why the father of augmentation doesn't have the most basic of implants. Doesn't make much sense, really. Unless he's one of the few people genetically incompatible with this technology. Gotta love the irony in that. It's the kind of irony that can tear you up inside, bit by bit, every day, until you find yourself despising what you're not."
"How dare you!" Darrow shouted, clearly Jensen had touched a nerve. "You think I've done all this because… because a fluke of nature robbed me of my chance to become a part of it? I tried everything, damn you! Everything I could think to change, none of it worked, none of it." Darrow's tone was rising and he was pacing angrily, losing his normally calm, measured composure.
Just push it a little further."So you had to fix it, didn't you? Take back control. Make it like it never was."
"Yes, yes that's exactly what I – what I…" Darrow trailed off, the reality of his motives and the atrocities he had caused finally dawning on him. "Oh god, what have I done?"
"Give me the codes Darrow. Help me stop this," Jensen urged him, holding his hand out for the controls.
"You'll still be in danger," Darrow said, tossing Jensen the codes. "Panchaea's security system, much of it, is self-determining and lethal. But if you succeed, if those codes help you turn off the system and you reach the broadcast center, tell the world exactly why I did it. Explain to them about the Illuminati, the biochip, Panchaea. Help them understand that the technology I created will not be a future any one of us desires."
Jensen turned to leave and called Pritchard, "Freya, the lockdown's disengaged. I'm heading back to the hangar to see if those blast doors are still open. Have you been able to raise anyone?"
"I'm picking up several glimmers. I think they're still alive, but there's too much interference for me to pin down their locations. I – I think you're on your own. Watch out for berzerked augs, I see dozens of erratic signals throughout the facility."
Jensen made his way back out through the halls, which were slowly filling with confused, wandering augmented guests and workers. He was able to remain in stealth mode most of the way, but the augs jumped at every little sound. Many were talking to themselves and jerking their arms and heads erratically. The way they spoke was harrowing - fast speech patterns, babbling at hallucinations, sometimes nonsensical growling. Once Jensen was back outside, he made his way across the walkways to the part of the building with the servers, machine rooms, and broadcasting levels. As he went through the halls, he picked up broadcasts for help from Sarif in the machine room. The way appeared blocked until Jensen spied an air duct in the left upper corner of one of the rooms. On the other end, he could see Sarif through the grates, pacing beside a large pool of aquamarine water.
When Adam stepped out of the ducts, a few people started but when they saw he was behaving normally, they relaxed. The boss approached him, looking relieved.
"Adam?! Oh thank god you came. I've got wounded here. We'll have to move them first," he said with urgency.
"We can't move anyone yet. Not until I get to the base of the station and shut down Darrow's broadcast," answered Jensen.
"What? Wh-why?" asked Sarif, who apparently thought this was an isolated catastrophe.
"The chaos you experienced here is everywhere. The Illuminati created a biochip that stops people from using enhanced abilities, and Darrow turned it into a kill switch," Jensen explained.
"Ah, my god, Hugh, what have you done…We've got to fix this, Adam. If people realize what's happened, if they believe augmentation technology created this chaos…they'll ban human enhancement research forever! You have to send out a broadcast, maybe we can pin it on the Humanity Front."
"Don't people deserve to know the truth?" asked Jensen. "I know I would have liked that."
"You've got no remorse about using me at all, do you?" Jensen approached the subject directly, he was tired of not having all the answers.
"I never used you, son," Sarif insisted weakly.
"You experimented with my DNA, without telling me," Jensen stated plainly. Honestly it didn't get much more black and white than that.
"Ahh, Adam this is difficult – listen, Megan – Megan came to me with the sample. When she showed me her findings, when I saw...when we saw the incredible potential of super compatibility…"
"…you just had to share it with the world," Adam finished Sarif's thought grimly.
"Adam, think about it. Would you have been able to do any of the things you've done without enhancements? Huh? Most people's bodies aren't as accepting of this technology as yours is. Sharing your DNA makes it possible for us to be like you. How can you deny us that chance?"
"Who said I would deny it? You and Megan stole my DNA and lied to me. You didn't give me the choice!"
"Well, I'm giving it to you now, Adam. Look, I admit it, I haven't done things the best way, but don't punish the world to spite me. Darrow wants us to live in the Dark Ages, the Illuminati want to limit evolution to those they control. You and me – we…"
"Don't group me with you, Sarif. I'll make my own choices from here," said Jensen, turning away and quickly scanning the survivors in the room for critical injuries. It didn't look like anyone was in too dire straits, so he felt comfortable moving on.
Freya was tracking Jensen's progress – he was nearly to the source of the signal. His GPL was now slowly descending into the base of the project, about 1000 meters. While she kept tabs on him, she started sending out calls to some of their pilots, as well as Malik. She hoped at least some of them had not gotten the chip upgrade. After relaying the coordinates to as many as she could, she checked on Adam's progress. It looked like he was entering the bowels of the Hyron project.
"Freya, are you copying this?" he asked suddenly.
She activated the video feed and saw he was bending over one of several pods on a central processing core, which was at least as wide as a car and stretched as up tens of feet to the high ceiling. Wires flowed out from the core, both on the ground and along the ceiling, with pulsing red glows running along certain portions. Within the pod in front of Jensen, she could see a person, a woman. She was wrapped from head to toe in electroconductive white strips, and thick black cables were connected at every level of her spine.
"Where am I? So cold. I don't remember. Let me go! Oh god, please help me, I'm scared!" the girl said, not seeming aware of her surroundings, her voice in sync with the women in the other pods. Their simultaneous speech gave each voice a harmonizing echo which sent chills down her spine.
"Good god Adam, I mean you told me what you'd seen on the Belltower station, but… this is…" she trailed off, no words seemed to suffice for such ruthless disregard for human life.
"Horrific. I know," he said solemnly, his eyes finding a terminal beside her pod that would release her from the system using Darrow's code.
"Jensen, behind you," warned Freya, picking up a signal.
When he turned, she could see Zhao, in one of the same electroconductive suits as the woman in the pod.
"Zhao, what are you doing?" Jensen shouted.
"I'm going to interface with the Hyron project mainframe and force Hugh's signal to stop. Somebody has to! And I know I sure don't trust you to do it right. After all, I'm still responsible for protecting our group's interests..." she said, standing in the Hyron's main access point and letting it raise her slowly off the ground. The connecting prongs came down and penetrated the ports along her spine and the base of her skull. She let out a high pitched scream and then seemed to struggle in the machine's grip.
"Ah…no, the system won't recognize my chip! I can't control it!" Zhao's voice joined the screams of pain of the women in the pods behind him. The Hyron project seemed to be rerouting its power to an auto-defense system.
"Zhao, get them out of there! I have to reach the Control Chamber!"
"No, I can still control it! I'm in control!" she insisted, writhing in pain as she fought with the Hyron project's barriers.
While she was still occupied, Jensen quickly raced to each of the terminals at the base of the central processor and input Darrow's code. When he reached the final terminal, the women in the pods were released from the array. Right as he took a step back, the mounted turrets and electrical floor system activated, sending a rain of bullets in his direction along with painful electric shocks. Even though he had an electric field stabilization upgrade, the sheer power of these surges were making his leg augments seize up uncomfortably. He managed to withdraw to the doorway, Zhao barely visible from his vantage point.
"Jensen, based on what I've seen here, if you take out Zhao, it'll cause the system to go back to its default mode – the defense system should deactivate."
"I might be able to snipe her from here…" he said, pulling out his scoped rifle. Taking aim, he fired shot after shot, aiming for her head. She was considerably augmented so she had intracranial shielding that was protecting her from his shots, but after a couple clips it was enough. The turrets abruptly stopped in their rapid rotations around the central tower and the glowing sparks on the floor dissipated. Over where Zhao was hanging from the mainframe access point, visible energy surges were funneling into her. The Hyron project was reacting to her damaged nervous system as if she were a frayed wire, releasing heat from her spine into her surrounding body. She was still alive and her cries reached a shrill, agonizing pitch as she absorbed so much energy she began to glow bright white. Suddenly, there was a huge burst of energy which threw Jensen back into the central unit, cracking the black outer case. When he pulled himself up and went to examine Zhao, her body had been reduced to a blackened charred corpse.
"Are you alright, Adam?" asked Freya.
"Yeah, can't say the same for Zhao, though," stepping around her smoking remains.
"What are you going to do?" she asked, following his view as he walked down the hall to the Control Chamber to deactivate the signal.
"The world has to know the truth. It's the only way to move forward from here. I'll just give them the facts. No narrative, just information. People need to come to their own conclusions. I think they'll come to the right ones."
"Good luck, Adam. I've got several VTOLs en route, including Malik. She wasn't able to get back here with the scientists, but we need everyone we can get, so she's got them in tow. They'll all be circling until the signal stops and then they'll land and start the rescue process."
"Thanks, Freya. I'll see you soon," he said, disappearing into the signal control room where Eliza Cassan was waiting for him, to prepare a message for the world.